Life of Brian
MY DAUGHTER came from the laundry holding up my jeans and sarcastically asked: ‘‘ Did you mean to wash your passport?’’
‘‘ F---. F---. F---,’’ I replied. I treasure my passport.
In my job it is one of the most prized assets I have. To put it simply there’s not a lot of fun in being a travel editor without a passport.
It was Tuesday morning and I’d just flown in from London. My routine after any trip is to empty my bag in the laundry and crank up the washing machine. My passport was in my back pocket and ended up being destroyed by the 90-minute colour wash cycle.
Normally this wouldn’t be an issue. I tend not to do back-to-back trips. But my problem this time – and it was a big problem – was that we were leaving on an inter-generational family cruise to the South Pacific in four days. I needed a new passport in a hurry.
The irony of this situation was that I had hassled my daughters months earlier about getting their passports. They had taken forever to get new ones for the trip and I kept nagging them to hurry because ‘‘ no passport means no Christmas cruise’’.
Clasping my soggy passport it now looked as if I was going to be spending Christmas alone. My daughters delighted in having the last laugh.
After I stopped swearing my first call was to the passport office.
I told the woman on the phone my predicament and she said the situation could be remedied, if I acted quickly.
My passport, although wet, was still valid for five years. Could I simply get a new copy issued?, I asked. No. I needed to apply for a completely new passport.
She arranged an emergency appointment at the passport office for 8.30 the next morning but I had to arrive with a birth certificate, my ruined passport, and room on my credit card to accommodate about $600 in charges.
Birth certificate. Bugger. I didn’t have one.
‘‘ Surely my old passport shows you who I am?’’ No. I needed proof that I was born in Kiama some 50-odd years ago. I was advised to duck into the Births, Deaths and Marriages office and pick up a copy. Problem was I was born in NSW and now live more than 1000km from the nearest B, D& M office. For $110 they could, however, fax a copy to the Passport Office. Thank you.
My next step was to race out and get some passport photos, find a witness to verify I was who I said I was, and fill in the passport form.
Armed with everything I needed, I headed to the city, battled the traffic, and arrived at the office 10 minutes early. The interview process went smoothly. I handed over the still dripping passport and was told my new one would be ready to collect in 48 hours. I had to pay an additional fee for the speedy processing but that was better than missing Christmas.
I was given a number so I could track the application process online.
By the time I had arrived home, I learnt my passport was already 20 per cent complete.
And then the phone rang. I had not filled in a statutory declaration explaining what had happened to my passport. I downloaded the form and filled in the bit saying that I had foolishly ‘‘ Omo-ed’’ the life out of it, emailed it back to the woman, and we were back in business.
Forty per cent complete. Sixty per cent complete. Eighty per cent complete. Done by Thursday afternoon. I quickly jumped in the car and drove the 50 minutes into the city, parked and paid the $20 parking fee, and raced up to the Passport office at 4.30pm only to find a note on the door saying that the office closed at 4 pm.
The next day, I did it all over again and eventually had my new passport in hand.
I have to say the Passport Office was tremendous. They made the process as easy as possible and I will forever be grateful they helped get me on board the Carnival Spirit for my Christmas cruise.
The cruise was sensational. I doubt there is a better way for three generations to travel. The ship kept my 17 and 20-year-olds entertained as well as my 75-year-old in-laws. And there are no words to describe how good Christmas Day is when someone else cooks the ham and turkey and then does the cleaning up afterwards.
And as far as lessons learnt, I won’t ever put my passport in my back pocket again. Promise. Brian Crisp is NewsLimited’s national travel editor.